After Citizens United: How Outside Spending Shapes American Democracy

75 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2016 Last revised: 21 Apr 2020

See all articles by Nour Abdul-Razzak

Nour Abdul-Razzak

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Carlo Prato

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: March 1, 2019

Abstract

We study the political consequences of lifting restrictions on the funding of groups engaging in outside spending (e.g., independent political advertising) in elections. Theoretically, we assume that outside spending changes the salience of candidate-specific attributes relative to their party labels. Empirically, we employ a difference-in-differences design that exploits the removal of state-level restrictions on the funding of outside spending mandated by the federal-level rulings in both Citizens United and SpeechNow.org v. FEC. We find strong evidence that these regulatory changes increase the electoral success of Republican candidates, thereby leading to more ideologically conservative legislatures. We do not find an effect on polarization. Consistent with our theory, the effect of outside spending depends on the power of labor unions and the alignment of business interests with the Republican party.

Keywords: Outside Spending, Salience, Interest Groups, Polarization

JEL Classification: D70, D72, D78

Suggested Citation

Abdul-Razzak, Nour and Prato, Carlo and Wolton, Stephane, After Citizens United: How Outside Spending Shapes American Democracy (March 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2823778 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2823778

Nour Abdul-Razzak (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Carlo Prato

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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